Recruiters: How to stop scaring your prospects off

In sales, and in recruiting, the ability to gain commitment and move prospects forward is a critical skill. But over the years, I have observed recruiters missing the mark when it comes to moving prospects to the next logical step. They either come on way too strong with the “dreaded pitch” or they make (incorrect) assumptions about interest or readiness.


Even the most experienced recruiters can fall into bad habits or forget the fundamentals of gaining commitment. And when recruiters lack the skills to effectively move prospects forward, they almost always increase the time it takes to fill critical positions. And, even worse, they may inadvertently move a prospect forward who is not the right fit — resulting in poor quality of hire.

So here are three tips to help you increase your ability to gain important commitment — while not scaring away your prospects.

Tip #1: Listen more; talk less

When I was in sales, I don’t think we had one person in our group who was an introvert. We all had the “gift of gab” and hardly ever let a moment go by without sharing our favorite story or commenting on something that was happening. It was like almost everything needed to be processed out loud, and we delighted in winning more than our share of “air time”.

Of course, being comfortable in almost any social situation and striking up conversations with total strangers can be a key advantage in sales. However, when we confuse selling with non-stop talking, we will quickly scare off prospects.

No one likes to be on the receiving end of someone who won’t stop talking. At best, it is annoying. In sales and recruiting, the non-stop talker runs the very real risk of losing the sale and alienating the prospect. You won’t be effective in moving a prospect forward if you don’t have the skills to ask the right questions and then listen carefully to the answers.

Remember, “he who speaks first loses”. Some recruiters can become very nervous with silence or with listening. Somehow, they think that they are losing control when they are not talking. But it’s quite the opposite. You actually have more control over the call when you ask key, strategic questions and listen carefully (and follow up!) to the responses.

And if you’re one of those folks who is afraid that you might show your lack of expertise or knowledge if you don’t speak, remember the old adage, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” (Mark Twain).

Tip #2: Acknowledge and manage hesitation or objections

Another common problem we’ve heard on recruiting calls is the tendency to “rush the close”. We understand that recruiters are under great pressure to close job requisitions and are often measured on “time to fill”; however, a decision like a career move is an important one, and prospects need to minimized risk and clearly visualize the “desired future”. This decision-making process can take time and needs to be processed on both the logical as well as the emotional level.

Recruiters who dismiss hesitations and/or objections — or who don’t even recognize them — can easily alienate prospects. Hesitation is normal. And objections need to be anticipated (even in some cases, expected). If you start “giving away salary dollars” much too soon or making quick, unnecessary concessions, you might actually make your prospect uncomfortable or anxious.

Don’t always assume that hesitation means the salary might be too low — and “overcompensate” by immediately “overcoming the objection”, negotiating too quickly, or (even worse) talking about all of the “great benefits” of accepting this position or working in this company. If you start giving away too much too soon you can easily lose control of the call and unnecessarily drive up the cost of the hire.

When you rush the close, prospects can easily feel pressured and not heard. As a result, they may balk and indicate they “need more time” to make this decision. What they may really be saying is they already have made the decision (and it’s a ‘no sale’)!

Instead of rushing the close, be patient and listen. Ask questions to understand the needs behind the hesitation or objections. Using your active listening and inquiry skills, be sure to clarify and paraphrase the concerns. Understand the root causes and address them with genuine care and concern.

Tip #3: Have a clear “ask”

It might seem kind of basic, but are you in the habit of asking your prospects and candidates if they would like to move forward? I like to call it a “clear ask”. I am always surprised how few recruiters actually ask the candidate if they would like to move forward in the process at the close of the candidate screen. The recruiter simply assumes interest and starts talking about “next steps in the hiring process“.

You actually can scare the person off — but you may never know it! Not having a clear ask can inadvertently lead to moving prospects forward who are not really committed — or who have objections or concerns that have not been uncovered. And in some cases, this can cause candidates or prospects to become anxious or doubt if this is the right decision.

They may be hesitant to share their true concerns or may simply make their mind up that this is not the right fit — without letting the recruiter know. Here’s where you end up with the “no call, no show” and wonder what happened! Afterall, you thought you had such a great conversation … and the person seemed so interested.

Don’t forget that moving forward in  the hiring process needs to be a commitment on both sides. It needs to be the right fit for the prospect as well as for the recruiter. Be diligent about having a clear ask about interest in moving forward. And be open and ready to address any concerns that may arise.

To your success!

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Want to boost your success? Ask yourself these 3 questions

Much has been written about what it takes to be successful in sales — and in recruiting. Of course, there are many factors that can contribute to success.

keys to success by watiporn

And, while there are no magic methods or non-stop flights to instant success, at least three key attributes have become foundational for sales (and recruiting) success.

Take this short “self-assessment” using the three questions below to help you better understand how you rate on these three, critical attributes.

#1: Am I a learner ‘at heart”?

In her newest book Agile Selling top sales guru, Jill Konrath, tells us that learning agility is key to sales success. With an ever-changing and complex selling environment — as well as more educated and savvy customers — sales professionals must up their game when it comes to continuous learning and improvement.

It’s no different in recruiting. Your prospects and candidates have done their homework – and they expect the same from you. Research has shown that today’s buyers are more than 60% through their buying process before ever contacting a sales person.

How about you? Are you a learner at heart, or are you set in your ways — doing the same things in the same ways (…and expecting better outcomes!)? For example, when was the last time you refreshed your list of questions for your candidate screens? If it’s been a while, try a simple question audit. Get rid of low-impact questions that waste time on calls and replace them with high-impact questions that quickly move prospects and candidates forward.

Develop your selling skills — especially questioning and listening skills — or learn new ones. Successful recruiters are great sellers. And successful sellers spend time learning about their competitors. Why not make time each day to learn more about your competitors so you can be better prepared to successfully sell against them?

Have you thought about learning more about your “customers“? What is important to them (e.g., growth opportunities, company culture, work-life balance)? And be sure you up your game by learning about “your product” — your company and your job openings, so you can develop that powerful, tailored value proposition to close more candidates. Start by learning what problems can you solve for your prospects and candidates and then learning about how your product addresses what’s most important to them.

#2: How quickly to I bounce back from adversity?

In sales – as in recruiting — there are plenty of times when you might be tempted to feel down or discouraged. Days of cold calling or prospecting can leave you feeling depleted at best. But great sales people know that rejection is just part of selling. Top performers know how to get up — it’s the “bounce that counts”.

Daniel Pink, in his great book To Sell is Human: The surprising truth about moving others  says that “…staying afloat in an ocean of rejection… [p.99]” is key to selling success. He calls this attribute “buoyancy”. Buoyancy is not just a matter of being naive and full of false hope or unfounded optimism. It’s about developing the ability to be objective and balanced about each situation. It’s about not taking everything “personally”.

How about you? When you are tempted to feel down or rejected, how do you react? Do you bounce back rather quickly, or do you tend to brood and become self-critical or play the “victim” — taking everything personally?

Great sales professionals learn from each situation and can analyze each and extract the key learnings. They know that adversity and rejection are part of the sales process and can keep afloat. Begin enhancing your own buoyancy by trying to gain some perspective on each situation where you are tempted to despair. Can you ask some good questions that can lead to insight into why a specific situation led to an undesirable outcome for you? What part did you play? What might you do differently next time to change the outcome?

#3: Do I know how to help others buy?

The third, critical attribute is the ability to maintain a sharp customer focus. Great sales people know how their customers make decisions and are adept at facilitating the buying process — rather than pitching solutions. A great selling process is always aligned with how customers make buying decisions.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a “bad sales process” that is “seller-centric”. These sellers make it all about them and their product — leaving us feeling manipulated and coerced. As been said before, we can smell “commission breath” a mile away. And it’s not pleasant.

Top sales professionals — and recruiters — know the best way for them to reach their goals is to help prospects and candidates achieve theirs. The equation does not work the other way around.

How about you? When was the last time you thought about what it takes for a person to make a career move or decision? Try mapping your own “sales/recruiting process” to see how it aligns with your prospects’ decision-making process.

To help people buy, be sure that you are prepared to (a) ask questions that help others identify and clarify their needs; (b) answer questions to help people feel comfortable and avoid unnecessary risk; (c) demonstrate how your company and/or position is in a unique position to provide what’s important to your prospect, and; (d) gain commitment each step of the process.

So there you have it. Check yourself on these three attributes. Be honest. Develop these three, critical attributes and notice how your own success rate is enhanced!

To your success.

Image courtesy of watiporn at

Recruiters: 3 Tips to help you sell without sound “salesy”

One of the common complaints we’ve heard from recruiters when we do sales training is that they “don’t want to sound like a sales person.”  sleezy sales guy Grant Cochrane

In some ways, I do understand this concern. Not all sales professionals have conducted themselves in a way that earns trust and respect.

But let’s face it. Successful recruiters know that recruiting means being able to sell. I’d like to share 3 tips to help you grow your own recruiting excellence and enhance the candidate/prospect experience without sounding “salesy“.

Tip #1: Know how to move a buyer-focused sales process forward

Great sales professionals know how buyers make decisions and can translate that knowledge into an effective sales process that efficiently moves prospects forward. Instead of wasting time with poor questions or ineffective closing tactics, great sales professionals (and great recruiters!) know that selling is about movement.

Make a point to have a “movement” goal in mind for each call. Think about what your prospect or candidate needs to move to the next step in their decision-making process. Try thinking about your own decision-making process when it comes to making a purchase. What do you need in order to move to the next steps when deciding to buy a product or service? Keep these steps in mind as you intentionally move your prospects and candidates forward.

Tip #2: Do a great job of qualifying prospects early on your calls

Are you sure you are spending your time exclusively with prospects and candidates who are a good fit for your position or company? Too often, sales gets a bad name because of poor prospecting techniques. Instead of asking great qualifying questions and listening carefully to what’s important to prospects, ineffective sales people resort to “pushing” people into buying decisions – often with gimmicky closes or price-slashing offers.

Be sure you are asking the right qualifying questions and ensuring that you are spending time with prospects or candidates who potentially might be a great fit. If you get lots of pushback about salary or other key aspects of the position, consider the possibility that you are spending time with someone who is not a good fit.

Instead of running back and forth – trying to satisfy endless salary (or other) objections, be careful to spend lots of time up front on your call with key, qualifying questions. You will be better off in the long run to “lose fast” by gracefully stepping away from prospects or candidates who seem to be asking you to “give away the store.”

Tip #3: Know how to create healthy discomfort

“Old school selling” often relied on intimidation or scare tactics to try and create a sense of urgency. When I was in sales, we were told that creating “fear, uncertainty and doubt” (called “FUD”) would get prospects to purchase our products. But once again, these tactics certainly can backfire and give sales a bad name.

Today’s sales professionals know that “pain leads to change”; however, they know how to create a “healthy level of discomfort” with “status quo”. They understand how to raise the right questions or offer the right information at the right time – all aimed at helping customers make good buying decisions.

Most people are not going to make a big decision – especially a career decision – unless they are convinced that the current situation is “painful” enough. As a recruiter, you must develop your ability to identify and clarify the things that motivate prospects and candidates. Instead of creating fear or intimidating prospects, use great questioning and listening skills to help them gain valuable insight into the implications of career decisions.

Prospects appreciate someone who can help them think through important decisions. They also appreciate sales people – and recruiters – who keep their best interests at heart. That means helping them clarify their thinking and needs/wants/fears before “pitching products”. Nothing is more of a deal-breaker than the sales person simply “hawking a product” with the hope of receiving a fat commission check at the end of the month.

So there you have it – great selling techniques that don’t rely on intimidation, pressure, or gimmicks.

Great selling – and great recruiting – require great questioning and listening skills as well as great “product knowledge”. Always keep your customer’s buying process in mind and keep your focus on helping your prospect or candidate achieve their goals, while minimizing the risks or uncertainties associated with any change process.

Happy selling!

image courtesy of Grant Cochrane /


Recruit more prospects with this proven sales technique

In the “old days” of selling, it was all about product knowledge. And, by the way, the sales person usually had the advantage — knowing more about the product than the buyer. For example, remember the days when you didn’t know how much car dealers were paying for cars? Or how much profit they were making? Or even the history of ownership? That’s why they always said, “Buyer beware“!

success ladder by samuiblue

But today’s great sales professionals know that their success depends less on their product knowledge and more on their ability to understand their buyers. Today’s buyers are highly informed and have access to as much — if not more — product information than sellers. In a way, it’s now, “Seller beware“.

In the current sales literature, much has been written about sales success being tied to the ability to map your sales process with how your buyers buy. So here’s a question for you:

As a recruiter, when was the last time you thought about mapping your recruiting process to how your prospects and candidates make decisions about careers?

If you want to enhance the candidate experience AND increase your own recruiting productivity, here are 3 tips that can help.

#1: Pay attention to the steps your prospects go through in making a career decision

Make it a point to talk with your prospects and candidates about how they will make their decision when it comes to career changes. Be sure you have a clear picture of the steps they will go through before considering a move.

In order to uncover this important decision-making process, you must ask great discovery questions. Resolve to ask more (and better!) questions about how your prospects and candidates will make their decisions. If you are unsure of what questions to ask, or have not developed a set of power questions, consider getting some great training to help you accelerate your success.

#2: Become more flexible

A sure “deal-killer” (especially with your passive candidates) is relying too much on your own needs and “script”. We’ve heard many, many recruiters focus entirely on their need to gather information (think: check-off boxes). This type of interview is anything but customer-centric and easily misses the mark when it comes to aligning with what your prospects need when it comes to making an important decision – like a career decision.

Instead of being rigid and staying on your own “script”, try becoming more aware of the importance of getting in tune with where your prospect or candidate might be in the decision-making process. Drop the need to “always be closing” or forge ahead with incorrect assumptions about interest — just to try and close job postings. Use great questioning and listening skills to ensure you are moving at the right pace.

If you move too quickly or don’t pay attention to what your prospect needs in order to be comfortable, you run the real risk of either losing the prospect all together – or unnecessarily lengthening the time it takes to move your prospect forward.

#3: Become a coach and adviser

Try to be more aware of your role as someone who can actually add value and help your prospect process an important decision. Make a conscious decision to step out of “recruiting mode” and pay attention to what is going to help your prospect minimize risk and maximize the ability to achieve career or personal goals.

Put yourself in their shoes and think of the things that they might be looking for. Some examples might be:

  • Doing work that is interesting or challenging
  • Having a great deal of autonomy
  • Working with a great team
  • Developing new skills or building greater competence with existing skills
  • Making a difference – being able to see the positive impact of your work on others (or in your community)

The point is to shift from thinking like a “sales person pushing a product” to thinking like a buyer with specific goals, needs, and fears. How can you help them think through their decision? How can you add value without appearing selfish or pushy? When you can answer these questions, you are well on your way to becoming more of a trusted advisor than a recruiter who simply need to fill an open position.

So the next time you are interviewing a prospect or candidate, stop being a recruiter and become a buyer instead!

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of samouiblue/

Can’t get your prospect’s attention? Two words that can help

Want to know how to get prospects to return your calls or listen to your voice mail? The answer might surprise you. Even sound simple. Perhaps it’s “hidden in plain sight”, but the answer is, “show value”.

texting debspoons

But sometimes it’s hard to remember to “show value” or even to know how to “show value”. The temptation in sales – and in recruiting – is to talk too much or to sell too hard (especially early on a call).

Considering the fact that your prospecting success depends entirely on the ability to “show value” I’d like to share three tips related to this important skill.

Tip #1: Value = relevance

Start by thinking of what is important and relevant to your prospect. Do they care about your “great company” or “great opportunity”? No. They care about their problems and their career goals.

To be of value, you need to be sure you are speaking in your prospects “language”. Keep your initial questions and comments focused on the things that are relevant to your prospect.

How do you know what’s relevant? Ask questions to help you understand what factors are important when considering a career move or new opportunity. Do your homework and be ready to share what you know about your prospect or your prospect’s company or industry.

Tip #2: Value = testimonials

You might even want to gather some key testimonials from others (similar to your prospect) who have made great career changes with your help. It’s natural to want to minimize risk when it comes to making a big decision like a career move. You show value when you share short, powerful stories your prospect can connect with.

A word of caution: Be careful not to talk too long or overdo it with testimonials. The temptation might be to shift the focus to you and to begin to ramble. You might be very excited to talk about others who have benefited from your expertise and in the process lose sight of the proper balance between questioning and listening.

If you talk too much, you diminish value quickly.

Tip #3: Value = advising

Have you ever thought of yourself as a trusted advisor instead of a recruiter? Another tip for adding value is related to positioning yourself as someone who can help a person process a big decision.

The “lowest level” of sales is simply pushing products. The highest level of sales is acting as a trusted advisor. To add value, you need to offer insight and ask great questions that help your prospect think differently about their career or career move.

The best way to add value is to be seen as a resource and advisor to your prospects. What have you learned that might be of value? Perhaps you can offer some best practices. Or maybe some mistakes that people tend to make that you can help your prospect avoid when making an important decision.

Again, when you help your prospect think differently about something you add value. Be sure you can ask powerful questions and listen carefully to drive the value-added conversation.

So the next time you become discouraged because of low conversion rates with your prospects, ask yourself, “Am I adding value?”

Happy selling!

Image courtesy of debspoons/